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Floor Statements

Statement on National Guard and Reservists Debt Relief Act of 2008

Madam Speaker, I rise it support of this legislation which is a simple measure the House can take to help protect our troops from undue financial hardship. We constantly receive stern lectures about the importance of supporting the troops. But supporting the troops is more than just wearing a flag pin, or sticking a yellow ribbon on your car, or impugning the patriotism of your political opponents.

Supporting the troops should entail some real benefit for those troops when they need our help. As President Lincoln put it so well, to ``care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.'' Perhaps taking proper care of the wounded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center , or providing them with suitable armor, or providing them with assistance after they return home would be a good place to start.

Here we have the opportunity to help a small number of veterans, estimated at 2,000 to 2,500, by lifting what amounts to a costly and burdensome paperwork burden. According to the Republican witness in the Judiciary Committee, this bill is ``targeted, specific, and quite modest.''

Will it allow these veterans to commit fraud? No. Creditors, the courts, the trustees, and the Department of Justice have ample tools at their disposal to deal with anyone trying to game the system. The case can still be dismissed for abuse based on the totality of the circumstances, the court can still deny or revoke the debtor's discharge of debts, the military could revoke the debtor's security clearance, and the criminal code provides for fines and imprisonment of up to five years.

The means test is not stopping fraud. The Bush Justice Department, which administers it, has reported that less than half a percent of all cases are dismissed based on the means test.

The form used to implement the means test has 57 separate sections. It takes a pro se debtor approximately 10 to 12 hours, and it rivals IRS form 1040 in complexity. I challenge my colleagues to fill it out.

So today members have real choice. You can vote to support the troops or you can vote to support the big banks. It is a pretty clear choice. I urge my colleagues to support the troops.
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